The Six Steps to Delegate Work

Use these six steps when you delegate so that work gets done, done well and done on time

Use these six steps to delegate work, so that it gets done, done well and done on time! For a more comprehensive coverage download the training Get It Done, Done Well and Done on Time.

Delegation is far more than a way of getting people to do the things you don't like or don't have the time to get to.

Step 1. Select the Task

Most delegation falls into two categories one-off tasks/projects or recurring tasks/projects. Not sure what you could delegate? Some ideas are, tasks that -

  • You used to do before you assumed your new role (you are probably still going them because they are in your comfort zone - time to hand them across so both you and your team members can grow)
  • People in your team have more experience with
  • Aren't in your core competency (but you think you 'have' to do them - you don't you just have to sure they get done!)

Provide valuable experience and will develop the bench-strength in your team

  • Will engage and energise your team members
  • You Dislike and that someone else in your loves

Step 2. Select the Person

Who likes to be given work that no-one else wants? No-one! If you dump on your team members all the tasks you hate - and know that they will hate too - you can only expect resentment and frustration.

However, if you delegate work that challenges, provides added responsibility and exposure, increases skills and most importantly is work the individual likes to do and is good at, well then you can expect the person to be receptive to your request to take on extra.

Your success at delegating will depend in large part upon your motivation. Take a look at this list and think what your response would be if you believed your leader was delegating to you for this reason:

  • Dumping work on you s/he didn't want to do
  • Focused on developing you as a future leader
  • Providing challenge and variety to you
  • Making use of your under-utilized talents and strengths
  • Freeing up time so s/he can work 'on-the-business'
  • Giving you exposure to other influential leaders in the business

It is critical before you delegate that you assess each team member's:

  • Skills & Capabilities
  • Desires
  • Development needs
  • Previous track record
  • Potential

Step 3. Plan the Delegation

Before you have a conversation with the person you'd like to delegate to, you need to plan out what the delegation entails. The elements you need to consider include:

  • The results that are expected (How success will be measured)
  • The level of authority (Any particular stages at which you want involvement)
  • Any elements which will require training, coaching
  • How to minimize conflicting priorities or other risk factors/concern
  • The likely number of work hours for each activity
  • The resourced required/available
  • Timelines, Milestones and Deadlines (How progress will be monitored)

Many of the elements that you identify in the planning stage may be modified once you begin to hold the conversation with the delegatee. For example, you may decide to change timelines or decrease the number of hours required. Stay open. Your plan is simply that, a plan, do not wed yourself to it and become inflexible during the conversation you have with your team member.

Step 4. The Delegation Meeting

It is important to really ensure that the person is committed to the new responsibility. People are more committed and engaged when they are involved in the process of establishing the expectation (see above). The person's emotional contract with you and the project is critical to a successful outcome.

During the meeting you should cover:

  • Why you need help
  • Why you have chosen this particular person
  • The importance and relevance of the assignment
  • The benefits for the individual
  • How it fits in to the overall scheme of the organization
  • Seek first level of commitment
  • Describe the task
  • Set out the scope and expectations
  • Identify conflicting priorities
  • Ask the critical questions
  • Discuss training needs
  • Set up milestone meetings
  • Seek full commitment

Step 5. Milestone Meetings

During these meetings:

  • Review what has been accomplished to date and seek feedback from them on how well they feel they are progressing in achieving the expected result
  • Identify anything you would like the person to do differently
  • Check if they are encountering any problems and any plans they have in place to handle them
  • Provide encouragement, coaching and feedback
  • Set the next milestone meetings (if you don't already have a preset schedule)

Ensure that at each meeting the person is reassured that you are available to answer questions whenever they need support.

Step 6. Debrief

The final debriefing consists of a two-way discussion about how the delegated task went. It allows you to:

  • Acknowledge any personal development that has occurred
  • Outline areas for additional growth
  • Applaud success and absorb the consequences of failure
  • Acknowledge performance problems and remedies for the future
  • Provide coaching
  • Find out how you went as a delegator and how could improve in the future

You will be more effective, at successfully bringing out the best in others, when you have the ability to flex your leadership style to suit the particular person and situation.

The Situational Leadership (SL) model, developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the late 1960s, has been used by millions of leaders around the globe. It describes four primary styles of leadership - Directing, Coaching, Joining and Delegating.

Like all models it has its limitations, for example I firmly believe that the relationship is important, no matter the individual's technical competence and/or attitude. However, the concept of changing and flexing your style, according to the needs of the individual in front of you, is an important part of your competence as a high performance leader.

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